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|Title:||The representation of memory in the works of William Wordsworth and George Eliot|
|Abstract:||Studies of memory in the works of William Wordsworth and George Eliot have hitherto focussed mainly on individual recollective memory. By contrast, this study explores habit-memory in the work of both writers, on both an individual and a collective level. It proposes that for Wordsworth as well as for Eliot, habit-memory can enhance moral awareness and maintain the cohesion of a community. The thesis is divided into four chapters. The first discusses ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar’, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda. Drawing on the idea of an ethics of memory in the work of the philosopher Avishai Margalit, I argue that the two writers regard habit cultivation as an important means of developing a sense of universal humanity in their characters as well as in their readers. The second chapter looks at the relationship between habit and duty through a discussion of ‘Ode to Duty’, Silas Marner and Romola. Wordsworth’s notion of duty, a universal law governing both the natural and the human world, is different from that of Eliot, which is identified with the habitual feelings of the body. Despite this difference, both believe that habit can help mould an individual into a duty-bound being. Chapter Three deals with the relationship between habit and guilt in Book X of The Prelude, Adam Bede and ‘Janet’s Repentance’. Rather than looking at guilt over a real transgression, it examines what Frances Ferguson terms ‘circumstantial memory’, the remorse that occurs when the unforeseen outcome of an action is interpreted as though it had been intentional. Wordsworth and Eliot differ in their view of the origin of wrongdoings and the pattern of recovery from guilt, but they both believe that this recovery can never be complete. The final chapter shifts from individual to collective habit-memory. Adopting a phenomenological approach to habit in discussing ‘Michael’ and The Mill on the Floss, I suggest that Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s theory can help us to understand Michael’s and Mr. Tulliver’s embodied relationships with their patrimonial land. I also draw on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Maurice Halbwachs to show that the habitual lives these characters lead and their attachments to their habitual states of being are collectively rooted. The chapter concludes by examining the two writers’ criticism of the intrusion into agrarian society of capitalism, which disrupts the transmission of collective memory from one generation to another.|
|Appears in Collections:||School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics|
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